Historical Question: How did economic, geographic, and social factors encourage the growth of slavery as an important part of the economy of the Southern colonies between 1607 and 1775?
Before the colonial period, no significant studies had been carried out to assess the economic impacts of slavery. Colonization of America saw an increase in this form of trade. It is important to note that America was occupied by the British. How did economic, geographic, and social factors encourage the growth of slavery as an important part of the economy of the Southern colonies between 1607 and 1775? To answer this question, one must have a good understanding of the evolution of this commerce.
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After colonization, Britons first occupied the northern part of the continent before settling on the southern region.1 The need to occupy southern colonies came as a result of the successes that were recorded in the north, especially after the establishment of cash crop farming. The setting up of the plantations in the southern colonies led to the growth of slavery. The factors that led to the rise of this trade can be divided into three major categories. They include economic, geographic, and social elements.
A number of economic variables informed the rise of slave trade in the southern territories. To begin with, the British required a source of labor to operate the large plantations. Valuable crops, mainly corn and tobacco, were grown here. The farms required specialized attention and care throughout the season. At the time, there was little mechanization. It is noted that the plantations were labor intensive.2
As a result, more slaves had to be brought into America to cater for the rising demand for workers. Through slavery, the colonial masters were able to produce with little or no pay for labor. The ‘triangle trade’ across the Atlantic Ocean also promoted this trade. Merchants from European countries bought slaves from African kings. They later shipped them to America. In the colonies, the slaves provided free labor in the farms.
Geographical considerations also supported the rise of slave trade. They included climate and topography. The summer season promoted the growth of cash crops. The soils of the lower regions were fertile. As a result of the high productivity, more and more plantations were set up. Slaves had to be sourced from Africa and the Caribbean to satisfy the demand for labor. The region also received adequate amounts of rainfall throughout the year.
The topology of the land was sloppy, providing proper drainage, which made the area suitable for cash crop farming. Increased agricultural activities translated to rise in the demand for slaves as a source of labor for the plantations.3 Outbreaks of diseases, such as malaria and smallpox, were common in the plantations. As a result, there was a need to provide a steady supply of slave.
A number of social factors also encouraged the growth of slavery in the southern colonies. Racism was one of biggest contributing elements. To this end, Blacks were regarded as lesser members of the human race compared to other individuals.4 As a result, the colonial masters did not hesitate to use blacks as slaves in the plantations. The conditions in the large-scale farms were very harsh. European workers were not willing to offer labor in such environments. Consequently, slaves had to be brought in from other regions to work in the plantations.
Price, Jacob. The Economic Growth of the Chesapeake and the European Market: 1697–1775. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Mancalla, Peter and Thomas Weiss. Was Economic Growth likely in Colonial British North America?. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Holland, Rupert. Historic Events of Colonial Days. New York: The Floating Press, 2013.
- Jacob Price, The economic growth of the Chesapeake and the European Market 1697–1775 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 12.
- Rupert Holland, Historic Events of Colonial Days (New York: The Floating Press, 2013), 14.
- Peter Mancalla and Thomas Weiss, Was Economic Growth Likely in Colonial British North America? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 37.
- Mancalla and Weiss, Was Economic Growth Likely, 37.